SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 25-year-old Las Vegas man was driving drunk at more than twice the legal limit and speeding at about 110 mph when he slammed into a Toyota Prius on the Santa Ana (5) Freeway in Irvine, triggering chain-reaction crashes that killed a 25-year-old mom with her 6-month-old son in the backseat, a prosecutor told jurors today.
Irving Aguilar is charged with second-degree murder and six counts of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, all felonies, with sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury on five victims.
“When we flirt with death don't be shocked when he shows up,'' Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman said. “That's what Mr. Aguilar did.'' Aguilar drove to Orange County to go out with friends and stay in an Airbnb in Anaheim overnight, but instead decided to drive back home in his new Dodge Challenger, Feldman said. He allegedly got behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol level of 0.20%, which is halfway between twice and three times the legal limit.
“He set off in his three-month-old Dodge Challenger back to Las Vegas at 111 mph,'' Feldman said. “Through his choices, through his decisions and actions, Mr. Aguilar in no uncertain terms set in motion a chain of events that death would be inevitable.''
The prosecutor characterized it as a “four-phase'' series of crashes that lasted over 12 minutes.
Aguilar, who had gotten a ticket for driving 61 mph in a 35-mph zone in Las Vegas a few weeks before the crashes, never hit the brakes as he slammed into the Prius, going 108 mph southbound on the freeway near the Alton Parkway exit at 1:24 a.m., Aug. 23, 2018, Feldman said.
A tow truck driver Aguilar sped by stopped when he saw the crash and helped Aguilar, who had blacked out in his car, to the side of the road, Feldman said. Aguilar's car, however, remained in the middle of the freeway, the prosecutor said.
The driver of the Prius managed “on three tires'' to “navigate off the roadway,'' Feldman said. The Challenger was in a “dim stretch of the freeway'' with its lights off, Feldman said.
Another driver in a Dodge van careened into a center divider to avoid the disabled car, Feldman said.
Then three other vehicles crashed into Aguilar's car, Feldman said. One of the drivers spoke with a 911 dispatcher that was automatically called by the car's onboard security system, Feldman said.
The driver, while stuck in the upside down Ford Edge, gives an account of the cars slamming into the Challenger. The prosecutor played the call to jurors that included the woman saying, “Oh my gosh, another person!''
In the last phase of collisions, 25-year-old Maria Osuna of National City was behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Spyder, one of three more vehicles to crash into Aguilar's vehicle and another car, Feldman said.
After she crashed into the car she stopped and unbuckled her seatbelt to check on her infant son when a van rear-ended her vehicle, killing her, Feldman said.
Aguilar admitted to California Highway Patrol officers that he knew drunk driving was wrong and dangerous and was even telling himself he had to stop drinking so he could drive home, Feldman said. Aguilar concluded he was “drunk'' but “could still function,'' the prosecutor said.
Aguilar's attorney, Fred Fascenelli, said, “This truly is a case of personal responsibility, but it's a case where personal responsibility ends and another person's responsibility begins.''
The defense attorney acknowledged that his client “drove drunk and was involved in an accident that he caused,'' but said the chain of events was “broken'' when other, “inattentive'' drivers crashed into Aguilar's car.
“At the end of the day, Ms. Osuna's death was not as a direct result of what was put in motion by Mr. Aguilar,'' Fascenelli said.
He said it was a “clear night,'' and there were, “no other obstructions there other than their inattention.''
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